Common sense tells us it’s time to reopen U.S. Capitol to the public
Published 12:33 pm Friday, March 11, 2022
BY SENATOR BILL HAGERTY
This month marks the two-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 mandates in the United States. Thankfully — though no thanks to power-hungry politicians and government bureaucrats — American innovation and resilience have us ready to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror. A full stadium recently attended the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, and Americans are filling churches, stores, entertainment venues, planes, trains and Nashville honky-tonks once again. The State of the Union address last week was open to 535 members of Congress and other government VIPs, with no masks required.
And now, because of a resolution I introduced and passed to reopen the U.S. Capitol and Senate office buildings, Americans for whom Congress works will no longer need a permission slip from a member of Congress or congressional staff to enter these public buildings. It’s time for Capitol Hill to return to normal. The openness of the halls of Congress and public participation in the legislative process have always been hallmarks of American democracy, which is why the inexplicable lockdown must end.
Why has it taken so long?
This resolution to reopen the Capitol should be implemented as soon as possible. Sadly, its passage took two weeks longer than it should have because Democrats initially blocked it. Why?
They said that the Office of the Attending Physician must approve. With all due respect, the elected members of Congress set the policy for the Capitol. To illustrate, the House of Representatives operates under completely different rules than the Senate — specifically, masks were mandatory in the House, but not the Senate, until just days ago. If the Office of the Attending Physician was truly responsible, surely the science wouldn’t change upon crossing an imaginary line in the middle of the Capitol Building.
They said that the Capitol Police department was understaffed. The Capitol Police has a larger budget than virtually every police department in the country, and Congress can work with Chief Tom Manger and his team to address any specific operational issues, including a rollout plan for reopening that starts with a reduced number of entrances.
Democrats said that, after Jan. 6, 2021, reopening remained too risky. Last spring, the Senate Rules Committee issued a joint report with the Homeland Security Committee exhaustively reviewing the operational and security failures of Jan. 6. The Capitol Police and other Capitol personnel have engaged in a robust reform process for more than a year. There is no present threat requiring indefinite closure, and we shouldn’t respond to the unacceptable violence that occurred on Jan. 6 by permanently closing the Capitol to the American people.
Sadly, all of these purported reasons result from an increasingly condescending Democratic viewpoint that most Americans need government to tell them what to do — whether in terms of pandemic mandates, parenting and education, or directing Big Tech to censor opinions that big government doesn’t want Americans to see.
Americans have more common sense than ‘experts’
On the contrary, I think that the pandemic has underscored that most Americans are much wiser than the so-called expert class.
Shortly after the pandemic began, most Americans used common sense to figure out how to return to work and school, while the experts insisted that everyone remain home and ordered businesses and schools closed. This one-size-fits-all, big-government approach has caused irreparable damage that will be felt for generations.
In 2021, most Americans were perfectly capable of making the personal choice of whether to receive the vaccine, in consultation with their doctors and in view of sensible considerations like age, work environment and natural immunity due to prior infection. At the same time, so-called experts said government vaccine mandates — some under threat of job loss — were the best policy, ignoring Americans’ individual liberty and the unprecedented supply-chain disruptions they’ve caused.
And in 2022, working Americans have resumed their normal lives, while the virtue signalers still walk around outside, alone, with masks on.
It’s time to use more common sense. Americans everywhere are safely living their lives, going to work and school, visiting stores, attending events and gathering with family and friends. And now we can add visiting the U.S. Capitol to that list.
I encourage Tennesseans interested in visiting Washington and touring the Capitol or stopping by my office to visit hagerty.senate.gov. Our Capitol belongs to you.
(Sen. Bill Hagerty represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)